Philly Pretzel Factory & the historic snack
When National Pretzel Day rolls around on April 26, how are you going to celebrate? Are you going to dive into a bag of Rold Gold or pantomime smoking a cigar using a Bachman pretzel rod?
There is no wrong way to eat a pretzel, and that’s remained true for the literally thousands of years these twisted treats have been in existence. In fact, it’s hard to imagine our lives without some form of pretzel taking up residence in our snack cabinet.
A Not-So-Twisted History
The story of the pretzel dates back to the 600s, when an unnamed Italian monk baked strips of dough that were shaped to resemble a person crossing their arms in prayer. According to the anecdotal evidence from The History of Science and Technology, this monk would give these treats, called “pretiolas” or “little rewards,” to youngsters who were able to memorize prayers.
Of course, there is no actual documented evidence confirming this, but let’s not allow facts to get in the way of a good story. However, the pretzel as we know it first appeared in a German baker’s guide in the year 1111. Not long after that, in 1185, an unmistakable image of a pretzel appeared in an abbey’s manuscript in Germany.
On the golden, pretzel-studded shores of America, the first commercial pretzel bakery opened in 1861 in Lititz, PA, about 80 miles west of Philadelphia. And thus began the enduring tradition of the “Philly Pretzel.” This soft version of the snack was almost instantly a popular pushcart item, eventually making its way to New York where, as we know, street vendors are more plentiful than mailboxes.
The Modern Pretzel & Philly Pretzel Factory
Germany and America most likely lead the way in the pretzel world, with both Oktoberfest and beer in general helping to fill pretzel bowls from here to Munich. Here in America, we cover them in salt and pair them with dips like melted cheese and a variety of mustards. Meanwhile, brick-and-mortar pretzel purveyors have appeared, taking the street vendor traditional to new heights.
Franklin Square’s Michael Caiazzo was working for his father’s plumbing company before deciding to twist into the pretzel industry, becoming a manager at Philly Pretzel Factory in his hometown, where his dad Anthony is the franchisee.
“It seemed like a good idea,” said Caiazzo, as he pulled full-sized pretzels and bite-sized versions called “rivets” out of a giant, rotating oven. “It’s still a good idea. It smells much better in here.”
And that’s no lie. Walking up to the door at the Philly Pretzel Factory at 197 Franklin Ave., the unmistakable aroma of freshly baked pretzels hits you square in the nose, travels to your brain and instantly forces the word “pretzel” from your breathless mouth. Philly Pretzel Factory has locations across the country, and is growing on Long Island, with locations in Franklin Square, Bellmore, Massapequa and more planned in other towns including Syosset.
The stores serve factory-fresh, Philly-style soft, warm, twisted pretzels, just as delicious dipped in melted cheese, or in one of the Factory’s array of mustards. Or if the pure flavor of pretzel is preferred, Philly Pretzel Factory’s creations are so lusciously doughy, so perfectly salted, that dip isn’t an absolute necessity. The full menu features those traditional Philadelphia pretzels, and also includes pretzel twists, mini pretzels, rivets, hot dog-stuffed pretzels, spicy sausage pretzels, cheesesteak-filled pretzels, a pepperoni pizza/pretzel hybrid bubbling with melty mozzarella, along with the sweet-leaning cinnamon twists, a local favorite. Philly Pretzel Factory also bottles their own mustards, with options offered including classic yellow, spicy brown, super hot and honey mustard, along with sweet dips like cinnamon and butter cream, as well as cheddar cheese and slightly spicy nacho cheese.
Tearing apart and devouring a salty pretzel at Philly Pretzel Factory, it’s immediately apparent what separates this company from the pretzel chains that dot malls across Long Island—where those chains use some kind of chemical-like butter oils to make their customers into mindless grease-crazed maniacs, Philly Pretzel Factory instead uses the comforting approach of a neighborhood bakery. That illuminating smell is pure, unadulterated fresh-baked pretzels—that, and that alone, is enticing enough to get patrons in the door.
“It’s simple pretzels. But they’re fresh so they are better than any pretzel you’ve ever eaten,” said Caiazzo, who starts his day baking at 6:30 a.m. in order to have plenty ready to go when the doors open for business at 8 a.m. “And that smell coming from the oven, there’s nothing better.”
Philly Pretzel Factory sells their full-sized pretzels in escalating bundles at very fair prices. The “Crowd Pleaser” box includes 25 pretzels at only $18, and it includes a bottle of mustard. You can even order 100 pretzels for $48. Meanwhile, their party trays are some of their most popular orders. These include rivets, mini pretzels, seasoned pretzel rods or a combination of mini hot dog-stuffed pretzels and rivets.
Philly Pretzel Factory, 195 Franklin Ave., Franklin Square, 516-407-3300. To find more locations, including Bellmore, Massapequa and other locations on the island, visit www.phillypretzelfactory.com.